Not only does its architecture breathe elegance into an otherwise plain landscape, downtown Greeley provides a collection of businesses that range from retail outlets that sell appliances and household essentials to entertainment and dinning.
To its misfortune, the downtown district, which stretches from 17th Street to Seventh Street and from Eighth Avenue to 11th Avenue, does not always receive the credit or patronage it is due. This is mostly because Greeley’s downtown is no longer the city’s epicenter of trade.
In recent years, many businesses have developed west of the older side of town. This has promoted expansion for strip malls and other larger developments, taking the limits of the city closer and closer to Interstate 25.
But downtown has not lost its luster. On the contrary, it has become accessible for new and existing business owners to enhance their enterprise in a comfortable, appealing environment. With new improvements in the works and more businesses coming in each month, the area is finally on the upswing. Downtown Greeley is an exemplary model for cities with similar populations to follow when planning downtown districts; its diverse collection of businesses enables patrons to quickly and easily complete most of their shopping.
Odie Roberts, the owner of Lincoln Park Emporium, opened his shop in 2008. Roberts said the committees involved with downtown, such as the Downtown Development Authority, help owners with some of their problems. But he also said he still feels the effects of the recession in 2008-09.
“It’s a struggle; we started when the recession took its toll, and there were a lot of empty slots,” Roberts said. “But we just work hard. (The emporium) has never hit a break-even point, but business is improving.”
Roberts said his utility bills are often very high. With 24,000 square feet of room, his shop is the largest in the district and monthly bills often exceed $3,000. But low rent in the area has helped alleviate that cost. According to the DDA, rent downtown ranges from about $6-$12 per square foot per month.
Some business owners in the area said there are some major concerns with the district, one of which is parking. Charles King, owner of King’s Clock, said inadequate parking lots can be a deterrent for customers, making them flock to the west side of town.
These claims are invalid, however, because parking is always accessible — I’ve never had a problem. Additionally, DDA statistics show more businesses are opening than closing downtown in the last two years — 25 businesses have opened since 2009 and 19 have closed. Some of the businesses that opened are located where some have closed; for instance, Corleone’s is now The Jager. Lil’ Hong Congs [sic] closed in 2009 because the owner retired.
Robert Toiton, president of Phelps-Toiton, Inc. and chairman of the DDA, owns the building where Lincoln Park Emporium is located as well as other properties in the district.
“I invest in it because I think downtown is an important part of the city,” Toiton said. “It would seem as if downtown is more active since the recession, maybe (more) than it was before. I think, right now, we’ve got as much action going on downtown as we have in 25 years.”
If there is anyone who deserves praise, it is the individuals — business owners and committee members alike — who saved a piece of Greeley’s splendor and have been successful in opening the door for incoming commercial endeavors. They have maintained the downtown district and ensured the survival of some of the city’s historic buildings. Their efforts will usher in a new era of steady economic contribution.
Eric Heinz is a senior journalism student at the University of Northern Colorado.